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Animal reproduction science

Reproductive performance of ewes grazing lucerne during different periods around mating.


PMID 26454684

Abstract

High intake of lucerne pastures or feeding of other high quality diets during early pregnancy may increase embryo mortality, negating any benefit of improved nutrition on ovulation rate in ewes. This study was conducted to determine whether grazing ewes on lucerne (Medicago sativa) pastures for 7 days prior to and throughout joining would result in greater foetal numbers than if ewes were removed 7 days after the commencement of joining, or if ewes grazed senescent pasture throughout the joining period. Merino ewes (300) were allocated to two replicates of three treatments, grazing pastures between Days -7 and 36 of an unsynchronised, natural autumn joining. Grazing lucerne to Day 7 of joining resulted in 30% more (P<0.05) foetuses per ewe than grazing senescent pasture (1.60±0.07 and 1.31±0.07, respectively), and 19% more lambs marked per ewe joined. Extending grazing of lucerne past Day 7 of joining did not result in additional foetuses per ewe (1.61±0.06) in comparison with only grazing lucerne to Day 7 of joining. Greater than 80% of ewes mated during the first 14 days of joining, and the proportions of ewes returning to oestrus and re-mating (0.18±0.022) and of non-pregnant (0.09±0.017) ewes were similar (P>0.05) among all treatment groups, suggesting no differences between treatments in embryo mortality. Grazing naturally cycling ewes on lucerne prior to and during joinings in autumn is recommended as a means to increase the number of lambs born, although additional gains may not be obtained by grazing past day seven of joining.

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